As the crowds streamed out of the Stade de France after the bloodthirsty events of Friday, they began singing the French national anthem; the crowds gathered to hear Hollande’s speech from Versailles did the same. Anyone who has witnessed even a handful of French singing it will appreciate the utter passion with which it is sung.
It was born in adversity and still works as a profoundly felt, inspirational rallying cry at times like these. It comes straight from the heart of the people in a way that the British equivalent’s adulation of the monarchy can never match. The only thing the two have in common is that few bother singing any verses beyond the first.
The European Union may well have adopted Beethoven’s Ode to Joy as its own anthem. But, in the tragic shadow of the Paris attentat, La Marseillaise is being sung with unifying passion by people across Europe—and indeed the globe—with no previous connection to France whatsoever.
Allons enfants de la Patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé!
Contre nous de la tyrannie,
L’étendard sanglant est levé, (bis)
Entendez-vous dans les campagnes
Mugir ces féroces soldats?
Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras
Égorger vos fils, vos compagnes!
Aux armes, citoyens,
Formez vos bataillons,
Qu’un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons!
Arise, children of the Fatherland,
The day of glory has arrived!
Against us tyranny
Raises its bloody banner
Do you hear, in the countryside,
The roar of those ferocious soldiers?
They’re coming right into your arms
To cut the throats of your sons and women!
To arms, citizens,
Form your battalions,
Let’s march, let’s march!
Let the impure blood
Water our furrows!